Saturday, June 15, 2024

Open Back vs Closed Back Headphones

Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. All opinions remain my own. You can learn more about our editorial policies here.

Headphones come in two varieties: open or closed. Open back headphones offer a more natural sound but will leak sound and let noise from the outside world into your ears. Closed back headphones offer better isolation and a tight seal, but sacrifice some of the natural sound quality. This article will explore how both types of headphones have their benefits and drawbacks so you can make an informed choice about which is best for you!

First let’s look at some general differences between the two types of over the ear headphones. (Note these are generalizations and may vary from model to model).

1) HEADPHONE SPEAKER DIAMETERS: Open-back headphones typically have a larger diameter than closed-back headphones (e.g., 40 mm vs 30 mm). The size difference is because open-back headphones also need space for the sound waves to come out of the headphones.

2) SOUND: Open-back headphones (also called open air headphones) typically offer a better presentation and best soundstage at the expense of leaking the sound of your music into the world and allowing external noises to be heard. Closed-back headphones (also called closed air headphones) provides some noise isolation from the outside environment at the expense of some of the musics soundstage.

3) TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED WITH OPEN OR CLOSED BACK HEADPHONE USE: If you are new to open or closed-back headphones, start out slowly (e.g., 5 minutes at first), then slowly increase the length of time you listen to them each day. When you first start using open or closed back headphones, it may take some time to get used to both the physical feeling of it (e.g., the tight seal) and the sound quality (e.g., noise leakage).

How to Choose Between Open and Closed Back Headphones?

Open-Back Headphones

This type of headphone lends itself for those looking to do critical listening. This includes at home listening to high quality music sources in addition to mixing and mastering sound. This is due to the ability of open ear headphones being able to present music in a more open way while creating a larger soundstage. View our Sennheiser HD 660 S Open Back Headphone Review for a great example of an open-back headphone.

The main drawbacks and areas you would not want to consider open-back headphones include commutes, working out in public places or an office environment. This is due to the open design does not isolate from external sound sources which can interfere with your listening experience. in addition, the open design will leak the music you are listening to into the public (this can make for some cranky co-workers).

Below are some sample open-back headphones you may want to checkout from Amazon.

Closed-Back Headphones

The best case use for closed-back headphones is the opposite of open-back. These work best in places you want to isolate the sound from your external environment while not exposing other’s to your listening. Closed-back headphones are great for working out in public, office environments and commuting. In addition, closed-back headphones are great for use during the recording sessions. Checkout our Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Headphone Review or our Byerdymanic MMX 100 for examples of closed-back headphones.

Below are some sample open-back headphones you may want to checkout from Amazon.


We hope the overview of the difference between open-back and closed-back headphones help you in your search for audio nirvana. If you’re still unsure which type works best for you, the best way to find out is through trial and error. You can also read some reviews for ideas of what cans to try in our Best Headphones under $200 review.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are open back headphones better for mixing audio?

In most cases, yes. Open-back headphones typically provide a larger soundstage which make them great for mixing audio.

Hi, I am Quinn. I am an experienced audio engineer who has worked in the audio field for the past 20 years. I enjoy most genres of music and enjoy home recording and learning about new recording techniques. In my free time I enjoy reviewing the latest audio gear and gaming.

Related Articles

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -

Popular Articles